Hudson talks business with Chamber
SALISBURY — U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson spoke with members of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday during what he called a “listening tour.”
It was Hudson’s first official stop in the county as its new Congressman. North Carolina’s 8th district, which he represents, now covers much of southern and eastern Rowan.
One of the first things Hudson told the gathered group, which included elected officials, bankers, economic developers, business leaders and others, is that he works for them and wants to help them.
“If issues arise that I think affect the county, or affect your businesses or the Chamber, I want to be able to call you and ask your opinion on it,” Hudson said. “If if you have issues that I need to know about, I want you to feel comfortable calling me or calling a member of my staff to get a message to me about that.”
Commissioner Jim Sides asked whether Hudson would have any input into where an Interstate 85 interchange is located in southern Rowan County.
Hudson said he won’t choose where it will be, but he knows there needs to be one. He said he wants to get the governor’s office involved in the project.
Sides said it would also help to talk with federal officials and someone from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“There’s half a million DOT is using on the Sherill’s Ford roundabout, and they could have that to use on this project,” Sides said.
Robert Van Geons, director of RowanWorks Economic Development, said the county will be wanting help to expand the runway at the Rowan County Airport.
Commissioners recently agreed to build a new hangar that can house corporate jets, he said, but the runway won’t allow them to take off with a full load of fuel.
“We know we have to grow businesses there and opportunities there to justify a continued investment from federal and state government, and we’re doing that,” Van Geons said.
Hudson said he’d be glad to help Rowan’s efforts at the airport, including talking to the new governor about it.
“The day of the earmark is gone, so it’s harder to specifically impact those projects, but I want to work with you on that,” he said.
Van Geons also said some local companies have been facing problems with legal immigration and work authorization.
“There have been people, who because they left an international company to work for a Rowan County company, were nearly deported,” Van Geons said.
Hudson replied that “our immigration system is completely broken,” and Republicans and Democrats will have to come together to fix it.
In the cases Van Geons is talking about, Hudson said, Congress might need to look at the country’s work programs.
“If we set it up so it doesn’t lead to citizenship, but it allows people to stay here and work while following the law, we won’t be that far off,” Hudson said.
He also said visas should be granted based on need - that is, the need for the person seeking one - rather than a lottery system.
Van Geons said he appreciates Hudson hearing his concerns, and asked if there is anything that Rowan County can do to help him.
Hudson said he was there Tuesday to listen to what they had on their minds. He did speak for a bit about what was on his mind, too.
“As far as I’m concerned, my top priority is jobs,” Hudson said. “We’ve got to have job growth.”
He said the recent fiscal cliff deal was “terrible,” and he would have voted against it, because it raised taxes and spending instead of cutting them. The country has a serious spending problem, Hudson said, and tying spending cuts to any increase in the debt ceiling could be Republicans’ best chance to address it.
He said with a Republican House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, he will need form relationships across the aisle.
“When I was running for office, I was thinking it would be President (Mitt) Romney I would be working with, and a Republican Senate. I had all these big plans,” he said. “Now, I think about what are the small things I can do that we can get a Democratic Senate to agree to?”
For Rowan County, having three different House members in two different parties may actually be beneficial, Hudson said. Rowan is also represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (District 5) and Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt (District 12) .
Though he and Foxx may disagree with Watt on many federal issues, Hudson said, they can be strong advocates on both sides of the aisle for the county and the state.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.